Raphaela escaped a violent life through determination and bravery

Former track and field athlete turned boxing coach, Raphaela, left a toxic and abusive life in Papua New Guinea to pursue safety and empowerment. She recently won an Oscar Romero Resilience Award for bravery and determination. This is her story. 

A beautiful but dangerous country 

Raphaela arrived in Australia with her daughter in February 2023, in search of a safe place to live. 

Domestic violence is a huge problem in PNG, affecting more than two-thirds of women. 

In 2013, the government passed a new law (the Family Protection Act), which makes family violence a crime, but there is still a lack of support, funding, and coordination available to adequately reduce the number of cases. 

In 2020, 15,444 cases of domestic violence were reported, but only 250 people were prosecuted and fewer than 100 were convicted. 

Finding self-worth in a violent world  

In PNG, Raphaela used her position as a sportswoman and a role model to advocate for women and young girls. 

She set up a female-only boxing gym to teach self-defence, self-discipline, and to help women to understand their value and to free themselves from abusive environments. 

It was a safe space for them to train, away from the violence they were suffering at home. 

However, despite its success, Rapahela ultimately made the decision to leave – she had seen more than enough violence for one lifetime.   

Chasing a new life 

Raphaela had nothing when she arrived in Australia. As a single mum she struggled to find food, shelter and clothes. 

After connecting with the Red Cross, she was referred to our team at Romero, who offered guidance through migration advice, securing her safe housing in a women’s shelter, and providing regular food and grocery parcels through the Oscar Romero Pantry. 

How you can help 

The support we were able to give Raphaela was made possible thanks to donations from people like you. Because we don’t receive any government funding, we rely solely on the goodwill of generous community members who donate to our centre. As well as financial donations we always need essential items – pantry staples, toiletries, nappies and go cards to name a few. 

No longer a victim 

Raphaela no longer considers herself a victim – she is a survivor. 

Today, she works as a boxing coach in Brisbane and helps others to realise that if they believe in themselves anything is possible. 


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